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McDavid's family, friends add to facing Eichel

Top picks in 2015 Draft play for first time when Oilers visit Sabres

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid is looking forward to facing the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; SNW, MSG-B, NHL.TV), but not necessarily because he will play against forward Jack Eichel for the first time. 

McDavid, the No. 1 selection in the 2015 NHL Draft, missed the first game against Eichel, the No. 2 pick, on Dec. 6 at Rexall Place, because of a fractured clavicle.  

McDavid sustained the injury Nov. 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers and missed 37 games. He returned to the Oilers lineup on Feb. 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring a goal and two assists.

"For me, it's more of a bigger game because I have some family coming, some buddies coming in from Erie, so I'm more excited about the game from that sense," McDavid said. "I'm sure it's going to be pretty well-covered [by media], I think everyone expects that. I think for the both of us, it's just another game." 

McDavid, 19, has 10 goals and 29 points in 27 games for the Oilers. He is currently ninth in NHL rookie scoring. 

Eichel, 19, has 17 goals and 41 points in 63 games for the Sabres and is third in rookie scoring behind Artem Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks (22 goals, 57 points) and Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes (17 goals, 42 points).

As the top two selections in the draft, McDavid and Eichel are expected to draw comparisons throughout their careers. 

"I've never talked to him about it, so I don't know his feeling about it," McDavid said. "But for me personally, it's not really too much of a big deal. We got drafted together, sure, but other than that we don't really share that much in common. He plays in the East, I play in the West. He [played college hockey], I played in junior. So we're basically opposites in that sense. So for us personally, there is not much to it." 

Oilers coach Todd McLellan does not expect the first NHL game between the two young stars to impact their focus. 

"I know there is a lot of talk about the two of them, but I don't think it's going affect either of the athletes that are playing; they're going to give everything they have in the game and play hard and play hard for their team," McLellan said. "I think a lot more is going to be made of it with all of the cameras and microphones more than anything. They're both at the developmental stage and trying to make their mark in a very good League. Both have done a tremendous job, they're fun to watch. The fans have been treated to some real good games by both of them and they will for a long time."

Opponents on Tuesday, McDavid and Eichel could be teammates at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in September as members of Team North America. The preliminary rosters for the eight teams competing in the World Cup will be announced Wednesday. 

"It'll be interesting to see the roster and I think whoever is on it, it'll be a good one," McDavid said. "There is a lot of good, young talent in the League this year and it'll be good to see who is on the roster."

McLellan will coach Team North America and is looking forward to the prospect of coaching the two young stars.

"The potential exists, they both had very good years," McLellan said. "If they are named to the team, I'd be very excited to have both of them."

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